POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - On Friday, Governor Brad Little gave churches the green light to reopen during stage one of the plan to rebound the state.
As the pandemic progressed, church and faith leaders began hosting worship services through live videos. But even with restrictions lifted, places of worship are choosing to keep the doors closed.
“We are celebrating our freedom by making our choice to keep our people safe,” said Pastor Starr Reardon, of the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Pocatello.
Stage one was enacted on Friday, as the stay-at-home order lifted. The permission to open comes with some guidelines from public health officials.
“What the protocols say is that they do still need to take into account the ability to do social distancing within their place of worship,” said Maggie Mann, the district director of Southeastern Idaho Public Health.
Health officials ask faiths that practice communion or passing donation plates to find social-distancing alternatives.
But in the meantime, many church leaders are choosing to keep services online completely.
“I’m reminded of the scripture that says ‘all things are possible, but not all things are beneficial.' And for us, we’re thinking this is not the healthiest thing for our population and our community,” Reardon said.
Mann spoke with several local faith leaders on Friday who echoed Reardon's sentiment.
“Many of them were delaying (reopening) a little bit because they wanted to make sure they had their practices really dialed in so they would be able to meet the intent of the guidance,” Mann said.
Some churches are choosing to stay closed until June, when stage three of Idaho's rebound plan permits people gathering again.
But even then, Reardon said church might not look the same as it used to.
“I imagine, if we meet in June, it will be outside for at least the first two services,” Reardon said.
Officials will discuss whether Idaho can reach the qualifications to continue to phase three over the coming weeks.
“We’re just going to have to really watch over the next couple of weeks to see if this first stage of loosening things up a bit contributes to an increase in cases as compared to the number of tests done,” Mann said.